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Updated: Mar 11, 2019

I remember the birth of my first son. I was sitting in a hospital room; it was raining outside. We were sitting in bed, with the chaos of the birthing room all around. All I could think was “I am undone."I once thought international journalism would be my calling and kids were the furthest thing from my head. But life became a beautiful tapestry, something I loved. Each stitch - each conversation, each event, each day woven into something I became.

But life became a beautiful tapestry, something I loved. Each stitch - each conversation, each event, each day woven into something I became.

My mom goals were very intentional - I wanted to raise them as decent human beings who had a faith of their own and understood the joy and power of community. To go to college (or trade school), get a career they were passionate about. And for them to eventually leave home, and make their way in the world, making each place and person they knew a little better for encountering them.

And then - that happened.

It began in 2009, before my oldest graduated high school. He wanted to spend some time in Chicago at a spiritual commune and because I am a person who believes I should act according to my words, I said “sure.” We dropped our amazing and somewhat naive seventeen year old, and drove away. I felt a tug ... and realized that nothing I could do or say would keep him safe whether he was in Chicago or in my back yard.

Then came graduation, and then another, marriage, then another, then another graduation and college and Oklahoma, and marriage and college, and then one day I packed up my baby and took her to Grand Rapids.

Between that event, and the rapidly failing health of my dementia - fogged father who we cared for ... I realized the life I thought I made to wrap myself in for the rest of my life was poked full of holes and would no longer be the beautiful, safe thing I thought I had woven. And I found myself trying to figure out what the hell I was thinking, raising strong and independent kids who functioned well in society? Because kids like that leave home and make their own families and while they still love and respect and spend time with their mom, they no longer need her.

They no longer need her.

I found myself unraveling. All the dreams I had of “some day” doing this or that paled in the sunlight of these four amazing humans I had helped raise. I realized that thread by thread, life was coming undone and there was absolutely nothing healthy I could do about it. Again, I was undone by my children, but this time they were doing exactly what they should and I was to blame for for my own destruction.

So sitting in a counselor’s office, puddled and pained and just not sure what to do next, I heard these words: What do you dream of? I told her the dreams I had and soon she stopped me and said, “No. What do YOU dream of?”

No one prepares moms for this transition. Most resources I found talk about “empty nesting” with “Now you can do what you want!”. But after 26 years of being a “mom,” how was I suppose to know what I wanted?

I realized that I had made a grave mistake losing myself in the process of building my kids. And because of my own failing to understand the strength of self-care, I would have a long hard fight chipping away at the image I had spent so long constructing.

So I am learning to hear that voice inside of me again. I am free lancing in both photography and education.

I still spend a lot of time living life with my kids - but I am learning to not build my everything around them.

And then there’s the grand baby ...

yeah. That’s a perk to not killing your kids, folks.

In this new season, most days I wake up with great hope. There are days I wrap up in a blanket after work and just watch my favorite movie for the millionth time. But most days? I can’t wait to see what they hold. The tapestry looks different during this season, but it’s still beautiful.

Written by Gina Lawton

Pictures by Gina Lawton

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